Inside this modest, even nondescript brick building is the Conspiracy. I capitalize it because I’m playing along with the preposterous notion that it was selected because of grammatical significance to be part of the official name of the organization that inhabits suite 200 here on Fort Worth’s Magnolia Avenue.
“Conspiracy,” explains the man whose name is also part of the title, “is a collective noun. It represents the whole.” At another point he tells me, “The intellectual power of the organization comes from the whole.”
I do not question his explanation. It has the ring of HR about it.
Maintaining his own name as part of the title of what once was called Starr Tincup signals continuity; a heritage name, he adds. I do not question this either. It has the ring of marketing wisdom about it.
Thus was Starr Tincup rechristened The Starr Conspiracy, says the man. His name is Starr, Bret Starr. A year ago he bought out his partner Bill Tincup, then promptly made partners of four of his long-time associates.
Documents that have come into my possession (and which I share with the world here) more fully detail the name change. The word “conspiracy,” says a document bearing the cryptic seal of the organization — a be-tentacled octopus with an all seeing eye – ”denotes a group of persons working in secret to influence perceptions and outcomes.”
The inclusion of “Starr” is as I was told. The document notes, “While Mr. Starr generated the creative spark that resulted in the founding of the agency, the current partners, consultants, account managers, copywriters, and designers surpass Mr. Starr in every functional area. However, by keeping “Starr” in the name, the brand benefits from historic brand equity.”
This then is The Starr Conspiracy. A marketing agency that offers no portfolio, mentions no clients, and prohibits the merest tweet of where its co-conspirators are traveling. And yet, it has been engaged by hundreds of vendors to the human resource industry. The document says the Conspiracy has become a $20 million business.
What exactly is this business? Business-to-business marketing for HR vendors, many of them (but not all) software and tech firms. The Conspiracy does not do recruitment branding, employer branding, career fair posters, or any form of job advertising.
Except sometimes they will when a client needs help, says Starr talking to me by phone. (“We talk on the phone a lot,” is an admission I found in the document.)
If you have read this far and not yet seen The Starr Conspiracy’s website, I will pause while you do. Pay attention to the Airstream in the video. Nothing will happen. Click here.
Now is this an agency you would hire to market your performance management system, or a new comp and benefits module, or onboarding program or, or, or? No? Good. The Conspiracy doesn’t want you.
“We are not for everybody. We don’t want everybody,” Starr declares. “If a marketing idea doesn’t make you nervous. If it doesn’t make your stomach queasy,” he adds, “it’s probably not a very good idea.”
Should I be hearing this? He has already confessed to not providing client references, apparently preferring that prospects vet the company on the strength of the ideas it offers them, rather than the work done for others.
Starr, though is relentless. “We are a good match for companies who understand they have to be noticed,” he says. Companies “shouldn’t try to appeal everyone,” he advises, “because in trying to appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one.”
Shortly after making that pronouncement, the phone call is momentarily disrupted. Starr mumbles something about the phone service, then declares he has a meeting he must attend. It is almost 4:30 on a Friday afternoon in Texas where he is. What kind of meeting would a Conspiracy need to be holding then?
I hang up my phone and check to see if the doors are all locked.